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Study: Low-Income Patients Prefer Texting With Providers

September 16, 2014
by Rajiv Leventhal
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A new pilot study among low-income African-Americans in Detroit suggests that they want healthcare providers to communicate with them by texting. 

The study, which appears online in BioMed Central Public Health, was a collaboration among researchers at the U-M Health System, VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center and non-profit Detroit organization, Friends of Parkside.
 
The 20 participants were asked hypothetical questions related to their health to evaluate how they would respond to leading reasons for urgent outpatient medical visits and also common primary care concerns. Examples included what they’d do if they needed a flu shot for a new job, had a four-day-old rash on their leg, or fell down the stairs and thought they’d broken a leg. On average, the response rate was 72 percent.
 
The answers gave researchers a glimpse into possible health needs in the community. One question, for example, asked people how they would respond if they couldn’t move their right arm or leg and suddenly couldn’t speak. Several participants didn’t realize those were signs of a stroke, answering that they would wait it out. The findings prompted local initiatives to better educate the community on telltale stroke warnings.
 
"Our study shows great potential to connect with a population that’s traditionally difficult to reach.  Texting is a simple technology that is already being used for everyday communication- it is something people from all backgrounds are very comfortable with,” lead author Tammy Chang, M.D., an assistant professor in the department of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, said in a news release statement. "We found that texting is not only acceptable and feasible but is the preferred method of collecting real time information from low-income community members."
 
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